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Archive for December, 2017

Joseph’s journal: 45

19 Kislev, 4808 (November, 1059)

I am somewhat reluctant to record this next incident in the saga of my father but it is necessary to provide a complete picture of who he was. On numerous occasions King Idris III of Malaga showed himself treacherous and lacking in moral character. During recent times, he was our ally, but only for the moment. Father was acutely aware that Idris was not a man to be trusted. Father understood that Idris was certain to betray Granada the first time it appeared advantageous for him to do so.

Father worried about a multitude of possible threats to the kingdom. One of these constant concerns was the possibility of someone using poison to eliminate him, or worse in his mind, King Badis. A plot could be promulgated by high-ranking Granadian functionaries but this was not a huge concern, although vigilance was essential. Poisoning was the most likely method to avoid exposure for the person actually responsible. For this reason, father made it known to all of the physicians in the city of Granada and its territorial holdings, that if they knew of any new poisonous substances, or if they heard of, or developed antidotes to any poisons, he was to be informed immediately. One day, a physician from Jaen showed up at our door and was admitted to Father’s study.

After the physician told my father why he had come, Father sent a servant to tell me to stop whatever I was working on and come immediately to his study. When I arrived Father turned to the physician.

“This is my son Joseph. Joseph, this is the physician David ben Noah of Jaen. Dr. ben Noah has come to us with interesting information. Please, ben Noah, tell us again about what you have discovered.”

“Of course, Ha Nagid. The powder is made from fruit pits, cherries, apples, apricots, any or all of them. The pits are crushed into a fine powder, a very fine powder. When you have a full cup of the powder you add hot water and, while keeping it warm, stir until the powder is in solution. The water must not boil, however. After the powder is completely dissolved, you spread the liquid in a shallow container and allow it to evaporate. It can be put out in the sunlight to hasten evaporation. The powder that remains after the liquid evaporates is the poison. If the poison is mixed with wine or vinegar it will emit a gas that is also poisonous.”

“And you have some of this powder?” asked Father.

“I have it here,” said ben Noah. He extracted a small glass container with a cork stopper from the pocket of his cloak and handed the flask to my father.

“And what is the antidote for this?”

“There is no known antidote, Ha Nagid.”

“No antidote?” My father’s brow furrowed as he rested his chin in his hand. “How fast does it act?”

“That depends on the size of the person and upon the amount consumed or inhaled. One fourth of the powder in the flask you are holding will kill a horse.”

“Thank you, ben Noah. I assume you are doing experiments to find an antidote to this poison?”

“Yes, of course, Nagid, but so far none of the antidotes have an effect, even when given to a test animal prior to exposure.

“Well, I want you to continue to work on the antidote.” Father handed the physician a pouch of gold coins. “This should enable you to continue your research for the antidote. Please keep me informed of your progress on a regular basis. Is there any way to detect this substance so a person would be able to prevent it being used to kill someone?”

“Yes, Ha Nagid, it seems about one of every three persons can smell it. They detect a faint odor similar to the smell of almonds. It would be wise to have someone with that ability available to smell food or beverage offered by someone you do not know or trust.”

“Is it safe to sniff this?”

“Yes, as long as it is still a dry powder.”

Father removed the cork from the flask and sniffed tentatively then again, more strongly. He replaced the cork stopper.

“I smell nothing,” he said and handed me the flask.

I removed the cork, took a sniff and recognized a faint aroma of almonds.

“Yes, I smell almonds, it seems to be a bitter scent, but still of almonds.”

Father smiled broadly. “From now on Joseph you will give the smell test to everything on my plate before I take a bite,” he teased.

“Even food my mother prepares?” I responded, serious.

He laughed. “Especially food prepared by your mother.” He reached over and rubbed my head. “I’m teasing you, Joseph. You take everything so seriously, therefore it amuses me to tease you. Put the flask away in your safe place, Joseph. “

Two weeks later, as we were finishing our evening meeting, my father addressed me.

“Before you retire this evening, Joseph, please bring me the flask the physician ben Noah brought to this house.”

I looked at him, raised my eyebrows and waited.

“Never mind, that is all you need to know for now. I have a plan I must discuss with the king. Just bring me the flask please.”

“Of course, Papa.”

I did as he requested, but even when I withheld the flask for a moment with a questioning look on my face, he told me nothing more about what he wanted the poison for. The evening of the following day he handed the flask back to me. About a third of the powder was gone. Again I looked at him, questioning.

“Badis has agreed to my plan with considerable enthusiasm. He gave me a solid gold wine cup, exquisitely decorated. He also provided a small flask of his very best wine. We are going to send Idris of Malaga the cup and the wine as a special present.”

“And the poison that is missing from the flask?”

“That has been dissolved and all the liquid is being evaporated from the cup. When all is ready I will send the gifts to Idris as a token of our appreciation for all he has done recently as our much valued ally.”

“And who will you send to bring him these presents?”

“Our king has suggested Ishak ibn Mohammed, chief of the Bani tribe.”

“Ishak ibn Mohammed? Isn’t that the same man you told me about a month ago? He has been whispering evil about you to the king.”

“Exactly so.”

I shook my head. “And the king has approved this plan, and even recommended ibn Mohammed for the task?”

“Yes. This is yet another harsh lesson for you, Joseph. Say nothing. Watch events as they develop. You must observe what people say, and more importantly do, as the plan unfolds.”

Late that same winter of 4802 (1053) I learned what happened. As he was instructed, ibn Mohammad delivered the gold cup, and the flask of wine to Idris III. Much later I heard, from a tribal chief who was present, that ibn Mohammad gave Idris his testimony as to the fine quality of the wine.

He said to King Idris, “I was summoned to King Badis and he told me he wanted me to bring to you two very special gifts. He handed me the gold cup you now hold in your hand. I think you must agree it is one of the finest, if not the finest, such drinking cup in existence. The decorations are exquisite. My lord, King Badis also gave me a taste of the wine in this cask I’m holding. He told me it is the finest Granada has to offer. I agree, it is the best I have ever tasted.”

“Well then,” said Idris, extending the gift gold cup he was examining, “let’s have a taste of this jewel of the wine maker’s art.”

Ibn Mohammad poured some wine into the cup. Idris raised the cup to his lips and sniffed, then sniffed again, inhaling deeply.

“It smells of almonds.”

“Yes excellency, I have been told as much but could not detect that smell when I was given a taste.”

Idris became pensive, perhaps thinking back to his own long history of treachery. He took another, longer and deeper, sniff of the cup and wrinkled his brows. Then held out the cup of wine.

“Ibn Mohammad I want you to drink from this cup. Tell me if it is the same fine wine you were given prior to coming to me.”

“Yes, of course, Excellency, as you wish.”

He took a sip of the wine then gazed into the cup.

“Not quite as I remember it but still very good, Excellency.”

“Drink the whole cup. We will fill it again, then I will drink.”

Ibn Mohammad shrugged and finished off the contents of the cup handing it back to Idris. Idris took the cup then turned it slowly again in his hand examining the intricate carvings. He looked inside the cup then studied ibn Mohammad who seemed to be getting dizzy. Idris waited, … smiling.

Ibn Mohammad sank to his knees and bent over. He tried to push himself upright again with both arms. He managed to get up on one knee then collapsed, rolled to his right side in the fetal position and died. Foam came from between his lips. The nobles of Idris’ court who witnessed this charade, rushed to their king.

“How did you know?” asked one of them.

“I didn’t, but I suspected. This is the work of the Jew, I’m certain of it.”

However, Idris was not aware of the deadly toxic fumes released from the poison by the wine. That afternoon he complained of being weak and short of breath. He seemed confused and kept dozing off. He roused with a start, and exploded into a ranting rage at a blameless servant, for no discernable reason. The next morning, he was slow to awaken, and seemed even more confused. His skin was a bright pink. He was breathing very fast, almost panting, while at the same time complaining that he couldn’t catch his breath. That afternoon, despite frantic attempts at treatment by his physicians, he was comatose. One of the physicians reported he smelled bitter almonds on his ruler’s breath. Late the next morning, he died.

Granada’s complete takeover of Malaga was initiated the day after word of Idris’ death reached Granada. I am still attempting to reconcile my father’s role in this.

Meanwhile, King Mutadid of Seville was still plotting and planning. He was finally ready to set in motion his strategy for the coming summer’s military campaign. He instigated the invasion of Granadian territory by the kings of Moron and Arcos, promising them financial, military, and logistical support. They were to attack Granada in early spring, as soon as the weather permitted.

Mutadid anticipated correctly that King Badis would respond to this attack as usual, by retaliating and invading Seville’s lands. Once Granada was committed, Mutadid arranged for the king of Ronda to attack our forces from the rear. This time he followed through on his promises. He sent two regiments of his army to support Moron and Arcos, and three regiments to support Ronda. He also sent considerable gold and silver as well as the promised logistical support in the form of long lines of mule-drawn wagons loaded with provisions, arms, and supplies.

This previously tried and proven strategy of getting Granada to commit, then attacking them from the rear, was once again effective. The Zanhadja were soon fighting on two fronts with significant numbers against them on both. During that summer, both sides managed to avoid any large confrontation, but continuous small encounters occupied both armies. The general outcome of the skirmishes was that Granada’s forces retreated, but they always pulled back disciplined and in good order. During the whole summer’s campaign, neither side was willing to fight a pitched battle so neither side suffered devastating losses.

My father engineered the strategy of orderly retreat by convincing Badis the combined forces of Seville and her allies outnumbered our forces significantly. He explained that Granada could easily lose an all-in confrontation. He also pointed out that any relief coming from Granada was likely to be ambushed along the way. The wisest course was to avoid any significant large-scale clash, abandon those territories they had already lost, and retreat to Granada. They could use what was left of the fall, and the fast approaching winter months, to rebuild their strength, remobilize, and be in a position to exact vengeance early the following spring.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mutadid seemed content with this outcome. He recalled most of his troops, leaving only token forces with his allies. What my father didn’t realize until later, was Mutadid’s grand strategy had never been a final and extremely dangerous confrontation with Granada. His strategic goal was to expand and consolidate Seville’s territories.

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Joseph’s journal: 44

18 Kislev, 4808 (November, 1059)

Two weeks after he gave me the seditious poems to hide, my father was stronger. He coughed only occasionally and less severely. He asked me to ride with him to attend a sale of mares. Along the way he explained that King Badis planned to attend this sale and had requested that my father and I join him. We went to the palace, where the king was waiting for us. When we arrived we found him sitting calmly on a prancing white stallion. The animal was incapable of standing quiet for even a moment. The three of us, accompanied by a platoon of marching Nubians, and ten mounted bodyguards, made our way out of the palace then through the streets of Granada. It was mid-winter, the air clear and cold. The sunlight was bright enough to cause all of us to squint, but its rays did little to warm us. The ever snow-capped Sierra Nevada sent gusts of cold wind to whip our cloaks and threaten the turbans on our heads. We were headed for the horse farm, only a short distance from the city.

While winding through the streets of the city we came upon an Arab merchant sitting in the sun, basking in the reflected heat from the brick front of his leather goods shop. As we passed, the man directed a string of vile curses at my father. The mildest was “dirty Jew”. Without stopping, Badis twisted in his saddle to look at my father.

“Say the word, ibn Nagrela, and I will order that scum beheaded this instant.”

“No, My Lord, his words mean nothing. Words are incapable of causing me harm. I will take care of this incident, please trust me to do so.”

Badis stared hard at Father then smiled.

“I understand. I have seen you take retribution, Nagrela, and I know you are capable of swift and violent action. Good, … people in our positions cannot afford to show weakness. I will trust you to make certain this incident is not repeated.”

Three weeks later, Badis, my father, and myself, again accompanied by guards, were in a similar procession on our way to a party hosted by one of the tribal chiefs. Badis insisted we pass by that same leather shop. Before turning the corner nearest the shop, Badis reined in his stallion, on this occasion a magnificent black, to a slow, high-stepping walk. As we came abreast of the merchant, again in the sun while leaning against the brick wall of his shop, the man jumped to his feet and ran alongside my father’s horse, holding on to his right stirrup.

“This man is a saint,” he shouted. “A jewel amongst men. Praise Allah Granada has been blessed with so wise and forgiving a Grand Vizier, and so great a general. And Allah praise our blessed King Badis for the wisdom to honor and promote this man.”

Surprised, the king turned to my father. “How has this transformation come about, Vizier? What did you do to this fool?”

“The wisest of our Rabbis tell us the surest way to defeat an enemy is to convert him into a friend,” smiled Father.

“And how did you accomplish this?” asked the king.

“His young son was very ill. I sent a physician who cured the boy. The man’s business was failing, and he was deep in debt. I gave him a no interest loan. His daughter is of an age to marry. I supplied her with a dowry.”

Badis laughed, shook his head and spurred his stallion forward.

This story has become another legend. Unlike most legends surrounding my father, this one is true, I can attest to its veracity because I was a witness. On that day I was very proud to be my father’s son.

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Ha Nagid’s journal: 43

11 Marchehvan, 4794 (October, 1045)

One of the estates I acquired from Malaga was on the sea, with a beach only steps away from the main house. After Passover, I took my family with me to visit the property for the first time. It was one and a half days of easy travel almost directly south, through the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada’s snow-capped peaks. We arrived at the estate, perched on a small plateau, with olive orchards, orange orchards, and vineyards. The vineyards were on sandy soil that produce an extremely pleasant white wine. From the house, there is a path down an easy slope to a private beach with fine gray sand.

Rebecca and I lay on the warm sand, our shoulders touching, watching our children cavort in the small waves caressing the sand. The warmth of the sand and the soft smell of salt water and marine life soothed us. The place will become our family’s seaside retreat.

***

We entered the winter of 4799 (1050) with Seville still posing a threat. Mutadid, despite losing every direct confrontation with our forces, was still able to marshal fighting strength and resources. For the time being, however, we were at peace.

I have spent a significant portion of my adult life in service to King Badis. On many occasions, I was able to save the king’s life by smelling out, unearthing, and quelling plots against him. I have enhanced the king’s position and reputation by making Granada the largest and most powerful Taifa in Andalusia. I enabled, and even encouraged, Badis to indulge his every whim while I concentrated on making certain the kingdom functioned smoothly, and was in sound shape economically. I have done everything within my considerable power to encourage trade and commerce. I am writing this down because Joseph now has free access to my journals. I want him to understand that the real strength of Granada is, and will always be, based on strong and reliable financial resources. I know Joseph has no enthusiasm nor talent for war. I doubt he could bring himself to actually kill another human, or in fact even an animal, unless he was starving. That is no doubt a good thing in the eyes of the Lord. I hope he will be able to provide the level of support the kingdom requires from a Chief Vizier. I know he is more than capable of being an outstanding Financial Vizier. He must make certain he fills this role, if none other.

I understand and acknowledge King Badis is a despot. Any hint of disloyalty, even by the most highly placed tribal chief or vizier in his court, is answered with immediate and brutal execution, frequently by his own sword. I must be constantly on guard and mindful of the possibility of any adverse rumor about me reaching the ears of the king. This level of psychological pressure sometimes requires emotional release. I find this release by writing seditious poetry.

This evening, as we sat in my study, I handed Joseph a new poem. He read through it, looked up at me, then read it again, more carefully.

“Papa, this could get you killed.”

“Yes, I know, but I must allow these thoughts out. I want you to find a safe and secure place to put this poem, no copies to be made until after I am long gone. Will you do this for me?”

“Yes, of course, Papa. I have a secret place where I secure sensitive documents. I will add this one.”

“Good, now please read it aloud. I may want to edit it.”

The poem asked if my king made me bitter by criticizing some of my actions, then drew an analogy at me wanting to respond to him by talking about the difficulty in putting together the shards of a broken jug. We sat in silence for a time while I considered the words of the four line poem. The candles in the room flickered. Our shadows on the wall oscillated but we were both immobile. I finally nodded my head.

“No … it is what I wanted to say.”

I was oddly tired so I got up and moved to the couch to lay down. I had lost weight in the last couple of months. I knew my face was gaunt, my brow permanently furrowed. I rolled to my side on the couch and reached into a deep side pocket of my long brocade cloak. I was forced to kick impatiently in my efforts to free the tangle of the cloak from my legs but was finally able to extract two more sheets of folded paper, and extended them to Joseph.

“What is this?” he asked.

“More of the same. Read them aloud, if you will. They express thoughts you must take to heart. My time is fast approaching Joseph. These military campaigns take a huge amount of my energy and have now affected my health.”

I was overcome by a fit of coughing. Joseph jumped up to come to me, but I waved him back to his chair. After a few minutes, I took a deep slow breath before speaking.

“I’m sorry, Joseph. This cough does not improve. We are approaching the time when you will have to take over for me. It will fall to you to protect our family and our people.”

“Nonsense, Papa, you are still strong. You are just over tired. You need to sleep more. If you follow the instructions of your physicians, you will recover your health as you have always done. I pray every day to God he will help you regain your health and strength so you can continue to protect his people.”

I looked into my son’s eyes and saw he was seriously concerned about me. Another fit of coughing engulfed my body, jerking me forward with each expulsion of air. The cough produced no phlegm, but I felt as though I was coughing up the very tissues of my lungs. I willed myself to stop.

“Read the poems aloud, Joseph.”

Joseph unfolded the first paper. This five line poem talks about how a king can force a person to some action that could prove fatal to that person then rescuing you from the danger he forced on you.

“Papa, this is more dangerous than the first. God forbid the king ever sees or even hears about this. We must destroy these poems.”

“Yes, Joseph … I understand your anxiety.” I paused and took four deep breaths. “If as you say, you have a place to keep these well-hidden, nothing will happen. I must be able to rid my mind of these thoughts and writing them down is the best way for me to accomplish that. Go ahead and read the next one.”

Joseph just shook his head at my obstinacy and read the third poem aloud. It is another five lines speaking to the volatile nature of the king and how he can strike out at his most loyal friend when angered or in a sullen mood. How his moods are like the responses of a spoiled child.

Joseph refolded all three pages of poetry and put them inside his tunic next to the bare skin of his chest, then patted the tunic that concealed them.

“No one must see these; Papa I will guard them with my life.”

I held up my hand, engulfed with another fit of coughing.

“Do you … understand why … I have shared these thoughts with you, Joseph?”

“Yes, Papa, I understand, and I take these thoughts of yours to heart, as I do all you have taught me.”

“Good. If you want, after I am gone, you can add these to your anthologies and distribute them throughout the Diaspora. But only do so if you feel safe from recrimination.”

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Ha Nagid’s journal: 42

4 Marchehvan, 4794 (October, 1045)

It was the second day of Iyar. King Badis, along for the adventure, joined me leading the army out of Granada. Once again, we were embarking on a campaign against Seville. This time, my strategy was for our attacks to be coordinated from three different directions. Al-Muzaffar, the ruler of Badajoz, agreed to invade Sevillian territory from the north. His army initially met little resistance. They overran villages and towns, capturing fortresses as they moved south. Their successes garnered much plunder and resulted in a continuous column of wagons returning to Badajoz. Carmona’s role was to attack Seville directly from their city’s stronghold, while Badis and I advanced from the southwest. After passing south of Antequera, and north of Malaga, we encountered Mutadid’s forces just south of Utrera.

The Sevillian commander was not much of a strategist. I was able to entice the Sevillians, their army almost exclusively composed of cavalry, into a trap. I deployed our troops in small units, apparently separated from support, while I positioned reinforcements carefully hidden from the Sevillians. This induced the Arabs to attack with their typical, and now familiar abandon of reason. I was able to take advantage of the Arab propensity to satisfy their urge for honor. This machismo behavior reinforced their concept of bravery. The trait is not different amongst the Berbers, but the later have now recognized the success of my strategies. The Arabs charged, oblivious to everything, into my infantry anchored by the Nubians. These stalwarts, after years of experience, training and successes, no longer considered a cavalry charge anything to be feared.

Once the Arab army initiated their charge the hidden reserves moved quickly to join those units used as bait. The Nubians were formed up as I positioned them. Protected behind their mobile fort of shields, undeterred by the screams of the oncoming hoard, the infantry aimed their long spears at the unprotected undersides of the charging horses. After hitting their marks or shattering their spears, the Nubians used their javelins to devastating effect. They were no less effective when they resorted to their swords. Behind the ranks of infantry were three rows of archers, crossbows, and slingers. The first of these ranks fired their missiles then knelt down to reload while the next rank fired, by the time the third rank fired the first was ready with their next round. To my surprise these tactics worked as perfectly this time as they had previously. The Sevillians had learned nothing from their previous defeats. The effect was to rain down barrage after barrage on the attacking Sevillian cavalry before most of them were able to get close enough to engage our infantry.

Once the forces clashed, and the enemy was fully engaged, I unleashed my cavalry, until that time still hidden on each flank. At this point the archers, crossbow soldiers and slingers were able to pick individual targets. Their missiles were even more effective. Swords flashed. javelins, arrows, crossbow bolts, grenades, and stones filled the air. Arms were severed, or nearly so. Terrible wounds were made to the face, neck hands, and legs until torsos were exposed. Then came the killing thrusts. The air filled with the noise, and awful smell, of conflict. The entire battle lasted less than an hour and a half.

The Sevillians were overwhelmed. They lost more than half of their army, killed, wounded or captured. After what was left of the Sevillian forces fled the field, my men gathered the plunder, and dispatched those enemy fighters who were so severely wounded their recovery was doubtful. We moved on to lay siege to the Alcazaba of Utrera.

While Badis lounged with his tribal chiefs in his huge pavilion, partaking of only the best of the local wines, I supervised the placement of the siege machines, and initiated the bombardment of the fortress. When I was satisfied with all the arrangements for the siege, I retired to my tent. I had my books to study, poems to write, and correspondence to attend to. Meanwhile the walls of the Alcazaba were gradually but inevitably weakened as the water supplies of the besieged dwindled. I did take time out from my intellectual pursuits to meet with a unit of engineers. I instructed them to tunnel under the section of wall they thought most vulnerable, undermining that section of wall, and weakening it enough to tumble.

On the road to Utrera the army camped for one night at the ruins of an ancient fortress. I notice that as I gain in years I become more retrospective. That night I felt depressed and was moved to compose a poem I entitled I quartered the troops for the night. The poem gives vent to the emotions I experienced thinking about all the people who dwelt, fought, and died in that place. I wondered what had happened to those people who by now were all long dead. What was the lasting effect of their lives and what would be mine?

While I was occupied with the siege of Utrera, Carmona, still a loyal ally, and the third aspect of my strategic planning, maneuvered towards Seville. The strategy was to use Carmona and Badajoz to draw Mutadid’s resources away from my front. For a while this strategy worked well. Initially, the army of Badajoz met only token resistance and was able to advance, but Mutadid sent reinforcements, led by one of his best generals, and the Sevillians were able to win some confrontations.

Next the wily Mutadid played a different card. He still had great influence with the king of Malaga, that same erstwhile Caliph of Andalusia. Mutadid reminded that false friend that Badis had wanted him dead and told him I had tricked him into believing otherwise. He convinced Idris III that if the truth were to be known, Badis, and his Jew Chief Vizier, had never been his friends. With considerable effort, and the application of appropriate financial incentives, Mutadid convinced Idris III to attack our forces from the rear. A strategy Mutadid used previously when he incited a rear attack by Ronda.

Badis was infuriated by this turnabout. He was the one who made Indris III the Caliph of Andalusia, even if the title was little more than an honorific. To meet the Malagan threat, and to punish the ungrateful Caliph, Badis ordered me to withdraw the army from Sevillian territory. He was determined to confront, and crush his newly crowned Caliph. Idris III had very little time to gloat over his success at relieving Seville. He was confident, fully expecting Mutadid to attack and trap our army between them.

Mutadid cared little, if at all, about the safety, or ambitions of Idris III, or indeed of the fate of Malaga. Malaga’s rear attack and our response made it possible for him to redistribute what remained of his army to confront Badajoz and Carmona. With overwhelming numbers arrayed against them, both Badajoz and Carmona were forced to abandon the war and return home, saving as much face as possible.

Idris III had been deceived. He fully expected Mutadid’s support and counted on that support to reclaim at least some of his lost territories. But Mutadid had achieved his short-term goal. Idris III was still flush with his victory, and still not terribly concerned. Being a Berber himself he knew the Berber nature. He managed to convince himself that although Badis might easily win a few skirmishes, he would stop to allow his troops to pillage and plunder. Badis certainly wanted to follow that scenario, but I managed to convince him otherwise. It was time to deal more permanently with the treachery of Malaga and its king.

One by one, our army of Granada attacked and subdued villages and towns belonging to Malaga. In each conquered location, I was able to identify people I felt could be trusted. Many of these men happened to be Jews. Badis and I installed them in office with the responsibility of representing Granada and administering the conquered territories. Before leaving, we exacted tribute from the conquered peoples. We used those resources to pay our mercenaries, and swell Badis’ coffers, thereby assuaging my king. I also installed tax collectors in each precinct to continue to divert the flow of wealth from Malaga to Granada, providing the King’s personal fifth of everything collected.

The Malagan kingdom was decimated. The erstwhile Caliph of Andalusia was boxed in and sequestered in the formidable Alcazaba of Malaga, three circuits of defensive walls with over a hundred towers, sited on the top of a mountain overlooking the port. After less than a month laying siege to his fortress we discovered that Idris III, the bully, was also a coward. He was not prepared emotionally to withstand a prolonged siege that would inevitably end in his death. He sent emissaries to beg Badis for peace and for his life, ceding everything taken from him. I weighed the cost in resources and manpower to continue the siege of the Alcazaba and convinced Badis revenge, and the complete absorption of Malaga, wasn’t worth the cost of men and resources.

Moreover, I was tired. I was feeling my age. For the last two weeks of the siege I had been troubled by a persistent cough that drained me of energy. The rigors of this particular campaign were no more strenuous than any of those preceding, but this time they exhausted me.

Badis, true to his nature, was bored with the siege. He readily agreed with my assessment of the situation and we returned home with many wagons full of plunder. The economy of Granada was given a huge boost by the infusion of appropriated wealth, and my personal financial situation, if not my physical health, increased significantly. I now possessed additional estates to manage. I put them in the care of my brother-in-law, Rabbi ben Judah.

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